After spending the past decade fronting the surfy garage rock group La Luz, Shana Cleveland began putting down roots in rural California with her partner and newborn child. Moving back to California not only allowed Cleveland the chance to write music outside year-round, but it also gave her the opportunity to immerse herself in the natural world. The result of her outdoor songwriting sessions is her resplendent third solo album Manzanita.
Nature creeped into this record not only in its title (Manzanita trees are evergreen plants native to California), but also in her use of synthesizers. “They are actually the best vehicle for conveying the sounds of nature (bugs, wind, birds, chainsaws—rural white noise); we used synthesizers as a way of recreating the atmosphere of being outside in the natural world while in the studio,” Cleveland said in a statement.
Throughout most of the tracks on Manzanita, synthesizers hum and lull in the background of the music, while Cleveland’s hypnotic vocals narrate snapshots of domestic life. Songs like “Faces In The Firelight” and “A Ghost” exemplify her’s charming and spectral folk songs led by her nimble fingerpicking.
To celebrate the release of Manzanita, Cleveland sat down with Uproxx to talk Richard Brautigan, Smashing Pumpkins, and the one time her band slept in a former slaughterhouse in our latest Q&A.
What are four words you would use to describe your music?
Supernatural, Love, Haunted, California.
It’s 2050 and the world hasn’t ended and people are still listening to your music. How would you like it to be remembered?
I would like for people to feel at peace with mystery when they listen. And I would like to still be alive and making it.
What’s your favorite city in the world to perform?
Who’s the person who has most inspired your work, and why?
Hard to choose one. Maybe Richard Brautigan.
Where did you eat the best meal of your life?
Istanbul. Every meal I ate while there with my band La Luz was the best.
What album do you know every word to?
Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream.
What was the best concert you’ve ever attended?
Solange at the Hollywood Bowl.
What is the best outfit for performing and why?
My stage style is in flux since coming back after Covid and becoming a mom. Lately I gravitate toward outfits that are loose and comfortable and ideally one-of-a-kind.
Who’s your favorite person to follow on Twitter and/or Instagram?
What’s your most frequently played song in the van on tour?
Anything by Yanti Bersaudara.
What’s the last thing you Googled?
How to spell Bersaudara.
What album makes for the perfect gift?
Eddie and Ernie’s Time Waits For No One.
Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever crashed while on tour?
The list is LONG. Maybe the haunted mansion in Youngstown, OH. Or the former slaughterhouse in Vienna, Austria.
What’s the story behind your first or favorite tattoo?
I only have one, it’s a lightning bolt on my right arm. I think at the time I thought of it as a reminder of death.
What artists keep you from flipping the channel on the radio?
Anything that sounds like something I’m surprised to hear on the radio, I love that. And Nirvana.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for you?
Oh, it’s impossible to choose. I feel grateful to so many people for so many things.
What’s one piece of advice you’d go back in time to give to your 18-year-old self?
You’re so bored and you have so much time, you should learn how to play piano.
What’s the last show you went to?
I went to see some friends play at a kombucha bar.
What movie can you not resist watching when it’s on TV?
What’s one of your hidden talents?
I like to sew and make clothes.
Manzanita is out now via Hardly Art. Get it here.